The phrase “Detroit band” invokes a specific image
these days. Blanche, a Detroit quintet fronted by Dan Miller and
his wife Tracee, bear the burden of that image while bearing no
resemblance to it.

Trying to play your own strange blend of twisted country in a
city feeding on a steady diet of garage rock can, apparently, pose
some problems. It takes courage to “play real quiet beautiful
parts with just an autoharp and a voice,” especially in
“these crappy P.A. places in Detroit, where every other band
was a garage rock band,” Dan Miller said.

Tracee Miller talked about the band’s rise through the
Detroit club circuit as more a rite of passage. Playing shows with
a less-than-ideal sound situation forced the band to adjust to the
point where Blanche’s style was fundamentally altered.
“If we only played sit-down type places, I don’t think
we would have come across how we really wanted to … the
messiness adds to the band instead of detracts.”

Blanche’s album, If We Can’t Trust the
Doctors…
was re-released on major label V2 records Set.
28th and they will open for Wilco at Hill Auditorium on Sunday.
While Dan Miller is certainly not adverse to playing shows with
bands such as Wilco or Handsome Family, which are often times
categorized as alt-country, he explains that he clearly feels that
Blanche’s appeal does not lie only in that particular
audience. “We can tour with the Handsome Family, we can tour
with The White Stripes, we can tour with Calexico,” he said.
“It’s not one specific kind of thing where you can only
play to acoustic singer/songwriter type crowds but you can play to
15-year-old kids that like punk rock, that they’re gonna look
at this weird, countryish band from Detroit, and they’re
gonna be open to that.”

While they might be too laid back to contend otherwise, it seems
that the couple feels that the alt-country tag is not appropriate.
As Tracee Miller somewhat passive-aggressively put it, “We
all have our different influences — Gun Club, Nick Cave. I
really don’t listen to that much alt-country
music.”

To some, the idea of a band from Detroit playing what can be at
least loosely described as country is blasphemy. But Dan Miller is
completely appalled by the whole idea of someone dismissing his
music on such terms. “Thinking about Billie Holiday, with a
song like ‘Strange Fruit’ that was written by a Jewish
guy in New York, that doesn’t make the song any less
beautiful or sad or gripping. I think that anyone who plays country
music or blues music, is anyone who’s been devastated by
tragedy and sadness. That’s something we definitely went
through when we were working on this music.”

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